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The word “anatomy” comes from a Greek root that means “to cut apart.” Human anatomy was first studied by observing the exterior of the body and observing the wounds of soldiers and other injuries.
Like most scientific disciplines, anatomy has areas of specialization.
Gross anatomy is the study of the larger structures of the body, those visible without the aid of magnification (Figure 1a).
At the microscopic level, the arrangement and function of the nerves and muscles that serve the eyelid allow for its quick action and retreat.
At a smaller level of analysis, the function of these nerves and muscles likewise relies on the interactions of specific molecules and ions.
Watch some videos, read some articles, try some flashcards, and then quiz yourself!
Human anatomy is the scientific study of the body’s structures.Human physiology is the scientific study of the chemistry and physics of the structures of the body and the ways in which they work together to support the functions of life.Much of the study of physiology centers on the body’s tendency toward homeostasis.For example, a systemic anatomical study of the muscular system would consider all of the skeletal muscles of the body.Whereas anatomy is about structure, physiology is about function.Homeostasis is the state of steady internal conditions maintained by living things.The study of physiology certainly includes observation, both with the naked eye and with microscopes, as well as manipulations and measurements.For example, neurophysiology is the study of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves and how these work together to perform functions as complex and diverse as vision, movement, and thinking.Physiologists may work from the organ level (exploring, for example, what different parts of the brain do) to the molecular level (such as exploring how an electrochemical signal travels along nerves).This is a micrograph of nerve cells from the brain. (credit a: “Writer Hound”/Wikimedia Commons; credit b: Micrograph provided by the Regents of University of Michigan Medical School © 2012) Anatomists take two general approaches to the study of the body’s structures: regional and systemic.Regional anatomy is the study of the interrelationships of all of the structures in a specific body region, such as the abdomen.